Lockdown three shaped retail footfall in 2021 with a -31.1% drop from 2019, reports Springboard – Retail Times
It was the three-month lockdown at the start of 2021 that had a severe impact on the retail sector and its recovery from 2020. Springboard looked at trends over two key periods: lockdown (January to March 2021 ) and post-lockdown (April to December 2021). Footfall to all retail destinations in the UK was –31.1% lower than in 2019, compared to -39.1% in 2020, with retail parks continuing to show notable resilience compared to high streets or malls to retain footfall.
THE IMPACT OF LOCKDOWN 3 AND PANDEMIC WAVES – DELTA AND OMICRON
Springboard identified that Lockdown 3 (January 6-April 12) had a dramatic effect on footfall in all types of destinations. The big winners in footfall over the period were retail parks with footfall down -33.9% compared to the 2019 level compared to -69.4% in shopping streets and -71% in shopping centres. The attractiveness of retail parks for consumers became even more evident after retail reopened in April; in the nine-month period ending in December, footfall in retail parks was only -4.4% lower than 2019 compared to -25.8% in high streets and -26.9% in shopping centers . While footfall recovered somewhat after the lockdown was lifted, later in the year footfall in all three destination types was impacted by rising infections of the Delta and Omicron variants. In July, at the peak of Delta infections, the deviation from 2019 widened to -30.5% in high streets (compared to -27.2% in June) and -30.2% in shopping centers (compared to -29.1% in June). The Omicron variant – which led the government to implement Plan B guidance in December with advice to work from home where possible – had an even more significant impact on attendance, with the gap to 2019 widening in shopping streets at -22.2% (from -15.8% in November) and in shopping centers at -24.1% (compared to -22% in November).
REIGN OF THE RETAIL PARKS
In 2021, retail parks remained the most resilient type of destination; footfall in shopping streets and malls was -36.7% and -37.9% respectively lower than in 2019, compared to retail parks where the decline from 2019 was less than a third at -11 .8%. While in 2021 there remained a significant gap in footfall compared to 2019 (especially in shopping streets and shopping centers), activity had strengthened from 2020 by +54.1% in shopping streets, +53% in shopping centers and +28.7% in retail parks. This is mainly due to the shopping parks allowing for easier social distancing as they are easily accessible by car so rely little on public transport, parking is free, plentiful and outdoors and the shops are large. They also benefit from the fact that the majority have the advantage of being established there.
Town centers and the growth of localism
In 2021, working from home for at least part of the week has firmly established itself and cemented the growth of localism, a trend identified in 2020. Springboard’s UK consumer survey identified that 57% of consumers worked at least part of the week at home in 2021, and that 24% of these consumers visited retail destinations less frequently. Inevitably, this led to a proportionate reduction in the portion in major city centers than on more local streets, as consumers were able to easily commute home during the working week. The most extreme example of increased localism is comparing footfall performance in central London versus outside London; attendance in Outer London in 2021 was -27.3% lower than in 2019, compared to -52% in central London.
IN-STORE AND ONLINE SALES
In May to December 2021, in-store sales were -4.2% lower than the same eight-month period in 2019, but some categories were in certain categories where sales were at or above 2019. Jewelry and electric/mobile phones saw sales from 2019 of +15.1% and +3% respectively. Even in health and beauty and fashion and accessories, store sales were only marginally lower than in 2019 (-0.5% and -0.6%). Inevitably the restrictions around eating and eating that prevailed following the end of Lockdown 3 meant food and drink sales suffered, but over the eight month period they were only of 3.1% lower than in 2019 supported by a huge boost in sales in August which was +13.4% higher than in 2019. In the three months from August to October to October, food and beverage sales on average +6.3% higher than in 2019.
In 2021, as a percentage of total retail sales, online sales averaged 30%, up from 2020 when they averaged 27.2%. Online sales inevitably increased during Lockdown 3 – to 35.7% between January and March, but fell back to 28.1% between April and December. Online sales of clothing and footwear peaked at 57.4% during Lockdown 3, but this also means that 42.6% of spending was made in-store, although only essential retailers’ stores can trade . Notably, despite improvements in home delivery, the vast majority of consumers continued to purchase food and groceries in-store during 2021. Online food sales made up just 11% of total sales throughout 2021 and only rose slightly to 12.4% during the lockdown. 10.5% between April and December.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INCREASES
Inevitably, the pandemic continued to impact consumer confidence, but the Consumer Confidence Index score as measured by GFK improved significantly in 2021 compared to 2020, from a score overall index score from -26 in 2020 to -15 in 2021. This score was strongly influenced by the negative impact of the general economic situation over the last 12 months (index score of -50), while the consumers felt much more confident about their own financial situation over the past year (index score of -8) and especially over the next 12 months (index score of +7). Consumer confidence rose significantly from May, following the end of lockdown 3 and remained strong through the summer, declining infections increased from September and into the Christmas period.
A view for 2022
Springboard has identified a number of key trends that it predicts will manifest in 2022. Chief among them is the maturity of the hybrid office/home work model which will result in more visits to stores in the evenings and at weekends, a longer length of stay. times and an increase in the combination of shopping and eating out as the prospect of going out after a day‘s work at home is more appealing. Alternatively, this model will in itself generate consumer demand for the choice that can only be had in a larger destination when more time permits.
While 2020 has been characterized by unprecedented change in retail brought about by the pandemic, and 2021 has seen the start of retailers adapting to this change, 2022 will be characterized by the transition of retail to succeed in a Covid world. Retailers can expect the migration of online spending to continue throughout 2022, although as consumers feel more confident about the risks associated with Covid, some of it will it will come back to the stores. Therefore, better integration of online and in-store retail must be at the forefront of retailers’ minds.
Diane Wehrle, Director of Knowledge at Springboard, commented: “Experience with three lockdowns has taught us that the need for human interaction and sensory satisfaction that we highlighted in the 2020 review really drives visits and spending in stores and destinations. Following the end of Lockdown 3, the initial spike in visits to stores and destinations that we predicted in our 2020 review occurred, with the footfall gap from 2019 immediately halving and then continuing to strengthen , peaking in the week of mid-October at -10.9% below 2019. the week before Christmas was only -13.8% below 2019.”
“It is clear that while retail has been impacted by Covid in 2021, the rollout of the vaccination program has been a game changer. In our 2020 review, we anticipated that we would need to break 2021 down into two key parts – pre-vaccine and post-vaccine – and that’s largely what happened. With the rapid rollout of the vaccine in 2021, bricks and mortar weathered the storm of two new variants, with attendance strengthening every month until December, when the government issued plan B guidelines for working from home, which made the scum of the expected increase disappear. attendance and sales during the crucial Christmas period.